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10 Ways to Turn Your Airport Layover into a PLAYover!

boy reading on airplane

Airports are not just hubs for travel, they’re like massive learning labs for kids! Pilots and flight attendants, cool arrival and departure screens, moving walkways, and windows overlooking busy runways and jetways—it’s a little kid’s wonderland! 

Try these 10 activities that’ll have your family laughing and learning during your next big trip, even if your itinerary goes south.

1. Play airport Bingo 
Make a list of sights and sounds commonly found at airports. Then have fun searching for items to check off the list. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: a green suitcase, a sleeping passenger, a moving walkway, a plane landing, an international flight, a service dog—the possibilities are endless.

2. Pack a fun kit
There’s an art to packing a travel entertainment kit, and we’ve got some helpful suggestions for you. 

• Keep crayons and markers all together by sticking them in a lidded coffee mug.
• Use plastic containers with lids to corral any small toys.
• Invest in a new book or toy to whip out in case of emergencies.
• Bring headphones for your child to use if screen time is a must.

3. Take advantage of kid-friendly airports
Research your layover airport before you depart to find out if kid-friendly fun awaits! For example: 
• Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) offers “Kidsport” play areas in three terminals!
• Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) boasts a full children’s aviation exhibit, complete with kid-size cargo planes, cockpits, a luggage station, and more. 
• San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has SFO Kids’ Spots that include a weather-themed play area with structures that help kids get out the wiggles during waits, as well as interactive learning centers spotlighting Bay Area artists. 
• Portland International Airport (PDX) has the Hollywood Theatre, a cinema located in Concourse C, that features short, family-friendly films by local filmmakers.

4. Ride the trams or trains
If your airport has a rail system for connecting terminals, take a few trips around the loop—woo-hoo! It’s like Disneyland! (Kinda, sorta.) To turn the ride into a serious skill-builder, combine tram-riding with airport map-reading.

5. Count the luggage
Big terminal windows make primo vantage points for bag-watching. Watch the luggage get loaded onto the plane and tally up all the colors you see. Or, pick one color and count only the bags in that color until you get to 10!

6. Build job smarts
Airports give you a great chance to teach your kid new vocabulary and observe lots of working people in action. Read signs and teach airport-specific words, or see if your child can guess what each airport employee’s job is. For example: “What do you think that woman is doing with those light sticks? Yes, she’s guiding the plane from the gate to the runway.”

7. Go on a color hunt
The airport is brimming with colors! Have your kid pick a favorite color and go hunt for it together. This helps avoid the boredom of sitting in one place, reinforces color vocabulary, and keeps your whole group (yourself included) active off the plane so you can rest on the flight.

8. Rely on an old favorite: I-Spy
“I spy with my little eye something … yellow!” Have your child ask questions to figure out what you’re looking at. Give clues for younger children, or let older kids narrow down the options with questions like, “Is it on a wall?” or “Is it moving?” There’s a reason this game is a classic—it’s fun and truly helps pass the time!

9. Bring window clings
Alphabet window clings are small but mighty toys for your travel bag. Set up your family “camp” in front of a big airport window and see what words, sentences, or poems your kids come up with. You can also find window clings with different themes (nature, cars and trucks, animals, etc.) to suit your child’s interests.

10. Download the Mad Libs® app
Remember your stack of Mad Libs books that were a must on road trips? They’re now available in an iOS app! With 21 free stories, this app is a great way to teach older kids about parts of speech with silly nouns, verbs, and adjectives that will have the whole family laughing in no time.

Bonus Tip: Save your dollars for vacation by packing some healthy, crunchy snacks in case a quick trip is unexpectedly prolonged. 

Safe travels and happy airport-hopping!